Lite and Mighty
It only seems natural for gaming handhelds to be redesigned and re-released after they’ve been on the market for some time. Nintendo continues to do this with great success, so why wouldn’t they give it another shot? The DS Lite was a near-perfect redesign of the original Nintendo DS, but we have to admit the DSi is even better than its nice and slick predecessor. But, does this warrant an upgrade for DS Lite owners? Are there enough reasons to go out and buy a DSi right now? Read our in-depth review and you’ll find out!
The first thing I noticed when I got my hands on the new DSi is its texture. Though I have recently acquired a new cobalt blue and black DS Lite, I’ve been using my white one since 2006, and I could tell the DSi was not shiny or as smooth as the first DS Lite design. Nintendo has gone for a matte finish that’s still soft and nice enough to the touch, but it doesn’t really have that wow factor the original DS Lite did. However, I know people have grown tired of the DS Lite’s glossy finish, mainly due to the very noticeable fingerprints it would show, particularly on the black version. This is why I know the matte finish will be welcomed by most, especially considering the first two available colors in U.S. shores are teal blue and black. The new handheld still looks great, and it really wouldn’t have to be compared to its predecessor, if it wasn’t for its obvious similarity.
The Nintendo DSi is slightly longer than the DS Lite, just about a quarter of an inch. Surprised? In exchange, the DSi is slightly thinner than the DS Lite (about 12%), and its screens are also somewhat bigger. Even though the dual screens have been expanded, games still look great on it, and they don’t seem stretched at all. On the contrary, it’s very nice to be able to play your favorite games on a bigger display. In addition, two + and – sound buttons have been added on the left side to replace the classic slider. This is very nice, as you can be more accurate when choosing the level of sound you want, which is also of higher quality. The power button (with a newly-added reset function) has been moved to the interior of the device, and there’s an SD card slot on the right side (more on that later).
The main reason why the dimensions have been modified is the newly added cameras. What better feature to add to the dual-screen handheld than dual cameras? There’s one on the outside and one on the inside. This latter one is more commonly used for specific software based on visual interactions. WarioWare: Snapped is the first DSi game to use this feature, though I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to come, thanks to the new DSiWare service.
DSi owners will be able to download new games and applications every week. These will be added in the same fashion as they are on WiiWare, and the prices will range from 200 to 800 points for most titles, though there might be a few upcoming ones with a higher price point, and there will also be a few available for free, mostly first-party applications such as the web browser, which is already offered on the DSi shop.
This free web browser has been designed and optimized by Opera, just like the Wii counterpart and the DS browser that was sold as a game cartridge back in 2007. However, there’s a huge difference between the old DS browser and the one offered on the DSi. Websites load a lot faster and navigating with it is a breeze compared to the previous one. It still doesn’t support Flash, but then again, not many handhelds do. Overall, I find this web browser to be a great addition to the DSi, even if most of us already own a phone that can go online at any time. In order to get online with the DSi you’ll have to connect to a Wi-Fi hot spot (widely available at airports and some cafeterias), or you can simply use your home wireless Internet connection. The DSi also supports WPA-protected connections, though they’re still not supported in old DS games. To avoid trouble, you might be better off with standard WEP encryption (if you’re not sure of what I mean, don’t even worry about it. Chances are you have the right connection at home). In any case, getting online with the DSi is a must. Not only can you surf the web, but downloading new titles and system updates helps to keep it fresh.
Apart from that feature, there are quite a few new things the DSi has to offer. The interface is very slick and easy to use. It’s basically a horizontal menu full of Wii-style channels. You can change their order, and new applications will be downloaded into your currently empty channels. It’s a nice touch to open them as a present once you’ve downloaded them. Of course, a few of them are available right out of the box, like the system settings, the game channel (from which you launch the current game cartridge), Download Play (to play locally against your friends or download demos), PictoChat, the shop, the camera, and the sound channels. The first four were also available on the Nintendo DS, and PictoChat hasn’t been updated at all (which I was hoping for). However, the camera and sound channels are a nice novelty.
The DSi camera channel lets you take pictures (not very high quality) and even play with them on the go. You can also browse your photo album and edit the pictures, distort them by dragging the stylus over them, add stamps, frames, graffiti, change coloring, and more. You can even merge two different faces, compare them, or create cool kaleidoscopic effects thanks to the built-in mirror lenses.
Of course, this is no Photoshop, but all these photo features are fun at the very least. You’ll have a laugh or two with your friends, even if it all seems a bit gimmicky. Who doesn’t enjoy these things once in a while? You can even share pix with your friends wirelessly as long as they’re next to you. Just one little piece of advice: careful with the pictures you take, as random pictures saved in your memory will load on the top screen every time you turn the system on!
The sound channel is not as fun as the photo channel. You can record your own sounds (up to 18 of them), tweak them, add sounds effects and filters, change the pitch, etc. However, it’s far from being a full-on mixing studio that you could enjoy for hours on end. Luckily, you can also listen to music in this channel. The DSi supports AAC formats such as .m4p, the music format used by iTunes devices and a few others. If you’ve imported your own songs into iTunes and they were converted into this format, you’ll be good to go, but if your music library is like mine, mostly MP3s, then you’re out of luck. Granted, you can convert your songs in order to play them on the DSi, but it seems more trouble than it’s worth, especially if you already own a nice portable music player. I really wish MP3 support had been added, and hopefully they will on a future system update. *hint, Nintendo, hint*
So, how can the DSi do so many things? Did Nintendo include a decent-sized internal memory? Well… they didn’t – it’s just 256 MB. But it does support high-capacity SD cards, which means you will have plenty of storage at your fingertips for your funky photos and songs. There seems to be enough storage in the internal memory for downloadable titles so far, but we’ll see what happens in a few months. As of now, I’m not able to launch my DSiWare games from the SD card, but at least you can store them in it if you start running out of space. Hopefully in the future they’ll have a similar solution to the Wii’s 4.0 menu, which allows you to launch your purchased games right from the SD card (by copying them temporarily into the system’s memory).
As far as processing power (133Mhz), it isn’t a whole lot, but it’s plenty for DS games. Heck, my first computer had that kind of power and I was able to do plenty of things with it! In addition, the DSi has 16 MB of RAM, which is four times more than the previous models. This usually helps with multitasking on computers, but since you’ll only run one app at a time on the DSi, you won’t even notice. In any case, it’ll make sure games are played without any hiccups and applications run smoothly.
All these upgrades don’t come without a cost, but overall it’s a fair trade. The battery doesn’t last as long (9-14 hours on the lowest brightness setting, versus 15-19 hours on the DS Lite). The reason is it has a smaller battery, but using the camera too much also affects its power consumption. The other trade-off is the backwards compatibility with the GameBoy Advance. GBA games can no longer be played, as this device doesn’t include the GBA slot. Happily, I still have my old GBA SP around, and I’m not getting rid of my DS Lite, so if I ever feel the urge to play one of the old titles, I’ll be just fine. The only thing is Guitar Hero: On Tour players will have to give it up if they upgrade to a DSi.
To conclude, here’s a summary:
The DSi has better sound, bigger screens, a reset function, two cameras and fun photo-editing software, audio player, voice recorder (small clips), Internet browser, and downloadable games via the DSiWare shop. It’s also compatible with DS games and will have future DSi-only releases. On the other hand, DSi-only games will be region-locked, it doesn’t play GBA games, and the battery lasts a little less overall.
Hopefully this will help you decide if you’re ready to upgrade or buy. I’d say, if you are like me and love gadgets, there’s plenty to love in this new gaming handheld. However, if you’re in love with your Nintendo DS Lite and aren’t too enticed by the new features, you should probably just hold off for now and see what games are released for the DSi in the future. Previous DS owners out there that never upgraded to the DS Lite, here’s your chance for a worthy upgrade! And those who still don’t own a DS, what are you waiting for? There are many cool games out there, both hardcore and casual, that you should definitely try out! Look for our review of DSiWare titles in the coming weeks here at CheatCC.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Design
The design team made a good decision by making the DSi so similar to the DS Lite. It’s just slightly longer than the DS Lite, but it’s also a bit thinner, lighter, and best of all, it has bigger screens. The matte finish looks nice and it won’t show any fingerprints. 3.9 Functionality
The inclusion of a camera makes it that much more fun. Picture quality is not very good, but it’s decent for this Facebook era. The camera will be best used to play fun DSi-only games. The music player is somewhat weak. No MP3 support is a downfall for many of us. The Internet browser is much better than the one for the DS Lite. Speakers are also better. 4.0 Price
The price ($169.99) seems to be right for an upgraded version of the DS Lite with cameras, audio player, SD card support, Internet browser, and slightly bigger screens. It also comes with 1,000 free points to download games. 4.5
There’s an extensive library of games to be played on DSi (supports all Nintendo DS games except Guitar Hero), and the upcoming downloadable games sound promising. Camera and sound applications are cool, though not great.
4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.